FECKLESS FRONTRUNNERS: GOP presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney during the recent Republican debate in Tampa, Florida. (Photo: Brian Snyder/Newscom)
Newt Gingrich thinks poor kids should probably learn to be janitors and that they should definitely eschew any morsel purchased by their parents with food stamps.
Mitt Romney does not lose any sleep over the “very poor.” His priority are the middle-class folks who make up the “heart of America.”
The problem with the rhetoric of the Republican frontrunners is that it distracts from the true question — what will we do about poverty and hunger?
In his specious statements about food stamps (which benefit the working poor as well as those on welfare), Gingrich baits race by declaring the first African American president of the United States the “Food Stamp President.” Oh, loquacious lobbyist who would be Debater-in-Chief, this does not count as an argument, but rather, as an ad hominem attack.
Mitt Romney, feeling his oats after his win in Florida, dissed the downtrodden so as to affirm his solidarity with the middle class. Oh, compassionate corporate man who would be Mormon-in-Chief, this statement amounts to baffling babble. Even low-income Republicans think that Republicans in Congress don’t do enough to help the poor.
Perhaps Mitt and Newt should take a page from a Republican president past.
No, not Ronald Reagan, who was also an expert at proffering dubious depictions of the poor — remember the welfare queen?
I’m talking about Richard Nixon.
Surprised? The summarily dismissed, yet politically complex President Nixon advanced domestic policies benefiting — OMG — the poor!
Nixon delivered an impassioned speech in 1969 touting an end to hunger by — GASP — increasing funding for food stamps.
Nixon propounded a Family Assistance Plan in 1971 that would shore up the safety net by — HOLY SOCIALISM, BATMAN! — providing a guaranteed minimum income.
Perhaps Gingrich’s gaffe would be just another laughable line during a contentious campaign if there were not so many politicians like him willing to punish the poor by cutting food stamps, limiting their use, and imposing drug tests prior to giving needed help.
Perhaps Romney’s remark could be forgiven as an oversight if he hadn’t already articulated the same thing in earlier appearances, indicating that his policies will not reflect the sentiment that we are our brother’s keeper after all.
In a country where 16 million children live in households that are food insecure and 15 percent of Americans receive food aid from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the reductionist rhetoric of the Republican frontrunners should give us pause. Caring for the poor is not a partisan issue. Feeding the hungry is a co-responsibility of caring communities, from the statehouse to the church house.
Don’t fall for the “food stamp” red herring or the “heart of America” trope.
HIT OR MISS: CBN founder Pat Robertson keeps us guessing with his prophecies about politics and world events. (Photo: Olivier Douliery/Newscom)
“I think George Bush is going to win in a walk. I really believe I’m hearing from the Lord it’s going to be like a blowout election in 2004. The Lord has just blessed him…. It doesn’t make any difference what he does, good or bad.” — Pat Robertson, January 2, 2004
Once upon a time, Pat Robertson prophesied and things happened. He declared George W. Bush was God’s man for 2004. And everything was good for Pat and George on Election Day.
Score one for the prophet of a small media empire and for the president accused of building an empire (you be the judge on the latter).
In November 2007, Pat decided to turn tarot cards again. This time, the anointed one was Rudolph Giuliani.
For obvious reasons, this marriage made in heaven was a strange one. Pat hates divorce. Rudy (apparently) loves it. Pat decries abortion rights. Rudy pledges to uphold them. Nevertheless, Pat Robertson bequeathed the divine blessing to Rudy.
Pat’s rationale for this prophetic endorsement was different than the one for Bush. Giuliani is God’s man to protect Americans “from the blood lust of Islamic terrorists,” Pat averred.
That second time around, however, Pat-styled prophecy failed. In January 2008, after Giuliani performed poorly in the primary elections, Pat appeared on Hannity & Colmes doing a delicate dance of doubletalk — God had revealed to Pat who would win the eventual election (and since Rudy was out it wasn’t him), but he took a vow of silence as to the identity of the future winner.
Prophecy Pat-style always keeps you guessing. So was it any wonder when on January 4, 2012, Pat Robertson deigned to make a prediction concerning our next president? Apparently, God is uttering negative prophecies now, instead of affirmative ones.
So thanks to Pat, we now know that the next President will not be … Barack Obama! As for the identity of the victor, Robertson claims it’s for him and God to know and for us unenlightened earthlings to find out. Apparently this time around, God told Pat to keep his trap shut.
Pat Robertson’s predictions and prophetic interpretations of world events have become something of a painful joke in recent years. His claim that Hurricane Katrina represented God’s judgment on the United States for its tolerance of legalized abortion was dubious enough, but then his declaration that Haiti’s deadly earthquake in 2010 was the result of a curse on that nation for its “pact with the devil” was even more bewildering.
So what are we to make of Pat’s spotty record with political prophecies? Well, one thought occurs to me right off the bat: Don’t blame all Christians for the ill-advised behavior of one believer, even if that one happens to preside over a worldwide media conglomerate that reaches people in more than 100 countries. While it is true that for many of us theology and Scripture inform our views on a myriad of public policy, few of us deign to divine in the name of God the man or woman who would be king or queen.
At the same time, let’s cut Pat some slack — as an octogenarian, perhaps his hearing is getting bad. But let’s allow Scripture (yes, religion) to have the last word for those, like Pat, who invoke God’s name on behalf of a candidate: “… when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:22).
God is not silent. But hopefully, Pat’s presumptuous prophecies are. Be not afraid!
MAN ON THE RISE: Herman Cain at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., last week. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm/Newscom)
While reports of his imminent demise persist, Herman Cain is nonetheless “raising cane” in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. In fact, a just-released NBC/Wall Street Journal poll places him as the current frontrunner in the GOP race for president.
He’s been termed a “marginal candidate” by the likes of conservative operatives like Fred Barnes.
He’s been deemed unelectable by likely voters.
He’s been charged by conservatives like Michael Medved with the crime of “needlessly” playing the race card when he called a spade a spade in his repudiation of the “N-word” scrawled on an edifice at the Perry family ranch.
Yet, Cain rises.
Despite the pessimism of prognosticators, pundits, and party elites, businessman Herman Cain has emerged as the “yes we can” of the political right.
Compared to the presumed nominee Mitt Romney, Cain has managed to inspire the right’s base. Cain musters 31 percent support from self-described conservatives, compared to Romney’s 15 percent support among the same. Tea Partiers are sipping the Cain Kool-Aid too, with 24 percent support of their heft backing Cain and only 17 percent support for Romney. Pure social conservatives love Cain too — while he came in second place at the Values Voter Summit this month, Tony Perkins of the host group, the Family Research Council, noted that Cain was the obvious winner since 600 of Ron Paul’s minions conveniently flooded the conference only for the Straw Poll on the Saturday morning of the conference.
Perkins said values voters are excited by Herman Cain. “He is a success story,” Perkins told CNN. “If you look at his life — how he has grown up and how he was successful in the business world, and those principles of hard work, of faith, of following the teachings of Scripture and Jesus Christ — he is an example of that, and it’s reflective in his success.”
What are we to make of this apparent surge? Whether Democrat or Republican, ambivalent or animated about the primaries, it would be wise to take Cain’s candidacy seriously.
Recall that four years ago, a rising star in the Democratic primary race was counted out as inexperienced and unelectable, despite his rousing oratory. And he’s now President.
Comparisons of Cain to President Obama are inevitable for obvious reasons. And it wouldn’t be the first time that Republicans sought their own “Black Conservative” answer to the phenomenon that is Barack Obama. Yet, this time the candidate isn’t a drafted carpetbagger who’s being rushed onto the stage solely because of his skin color and loud voice. Cain appears to be his own man.
Pundits and pollsters have too easily dismissed Herman Cain’s candidacy, but the conservative base appears to have a new anointed one — at least for the time being. He’s not the clear frontrunner just yet, but he’s certainly raising cane in the Republican contest. Still, it wasn’t that long ago that Michele Bachmann (remember her?) and Rick Perry had all the buzz and momentum. In a GOP race that discards the favored ones just as quickly as it elevates them, can Cain keep it up?
LOSING MOMENTUM: Can GOP Congresswoman Michele Bachmann continue to win over doubters with her ambitious presidential bid?
The rise of Republican congresswoman and Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann as a serious presidential candidate has provided one of the more curious storylines for political observers this summer. As a female political scientist intrigued by Bachmann’s ascent, I initially wondered if she might best Mitt Romney in the primaries — a feat that Hillary Rodham Clinton failed to accomplish on the Democratic side in her bid against the eventual presidential victor, Barack Obama.
Now I’m wondering if my curiosity was misplaced. You see, a few weeks back Bachmann’s momentum seemed inevitable. Polls showed her hanging neck-in-neck with Mitt Romney.
Lately, however, she’s been singing the blahs.
Not the blues, the blahs. The same old blah, blah, blah songs that failed to inspire Independents and youth voters to vote for Republicans in the last election. Bachmann is singing from the same hymnbook that the Christian Right has been floating around since the 1980s—the same old song that lost Republicans the 2008 election. So what is the evangelical contender getting the most pre-primary buzz — Michele Bachmann — to do?
To be successful in the 2012 race, Bachmann must drop the national anthem of evangelical politics — God, guns, and gays. This song of “the 3 G’s” has played itself out. That Michele Bachmann supports the 3 G’s is intuitively obvious. So why keep singing the same tired tune?
We know from Bachmann’s biography that Jesus is her homeboy. We know based on her ‘A’ rating from the National Rifle Association that even if she’s not personally packing an Uzi, she supports your right to do so. We know from the horse’s mouth that she signed a controversial pledge supporting a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman — a controversial pledge because it also stated that African American children were better off during slavery than they are in 2011 under the administration of a black President.
Sounds like the same old refrain that lost the GOP the election in 2008. Is there anything new in the 2012 Republican knapsack or is Bachmann simply the same old Sarah Palin wine in new wineskins? To be a serious contender, Bachmann must refashion her image, bucking the widely held assumption that she is Palin’s Midwestern clone — even if secretly, she is. But how?
Time for a new tune on the evangelical political iPod. Push the evangelical envelope by singing the 3 P’s — pluralism, peace, and Priuses. This new hymn is in the style and key of a core constituency — youth voters. Tout religious pluralism in the campaign, including interfaith efforts to combat issues like sex trafficking. Embrace the increasing numbers of young Christian pacifists who oppose the current wars and the notion that any war can be classified as a just one. Emphasize environmental concerns in a convincing manner given that global warming is an undisputed fact according to a majority of young evangelicals, many of whom probably think Jesus would probably drive a Prius.
Youth voters, including young evangelicals, were crucial to Obama’s victory in 2008. Obama understood that young voters are devoted to the 3 P’s, but not so much the 3 G’s. Yes, evangelical youth are more pro-life than their parents, but they are more likely to believe that Jesus was a social justice revolutionary in the manner of Shane Claiborne than the harbinger of a holy war against public schools.
Less talk about gay marriage and more talk about greening the ghetto would take the evangelical agenda, and Bachmann’s campaign, to new heights. It’s time for a new song in an increasingly outmoded evangelical hymnbook.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of UrbanFaith.com or Urban Ministries Inc.